The revelation raises questions about Shannon Prices's legal authority over the actor

By Ken Lee
June 02, 2010 06:10 PM
Credit: Inside Edition

Shannon Price portrayed herself to emergency crews and hospital staff as Gary Coleman’s wife, but his former lawyer now says the pair weren’t legally married at the time of the actor’s death.

“I can confirm they’ve been divorced since August 12, 2008,” attorney Randy Kester, who handled the divorce, tells PEOPLE. “At the time of Gary’s death, they were not married. I have no knowledge if they were ever remarried.”

The discovery comes after documents were posted on ETOnline Wednesday showing the couple had divorced, though their names were listed as John Doe and Jane Doe.

“Gary wanted me to keep their divorce private,” Kester says, “but now that it’s been made public, I’m compelled to say it’s all true.”

Shielia Erickson, a Salt Lake City agent who represents Price, tells PEOPLE she isn’t sure about the couple’s marital status. “I wish I could clear that up … I’m still waiting to find out myself from Shannon.”

But she says Price and Coleman took care of each other. “They needed each other and loved each other,” says Erickson. They wanted to work through their problems.”

Questions About Authority

The revelation that they were not legally married called into question whether Price, 24, had the authority to make any medical decisions on the actor’s behalf – as well as any future decisions, such as funeral arrangements or those concerning his estate.

The actor, 42, was taken off life support Friday with Price’s permission. A 911 call tape released Wednesday also revealed that Price initially resisted giving Coleman medical aid.

In a statement released Wednesday by Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where Coleman died revealed that the star “had completed an Advance Health Care Directive that granted Shannon Price permission to make medical decisions on his behalf.”

The document remains in effect whether or not a couple are married. Price gave the Utah medical center permission to release confirmation of the directive.

Funeral Plans

Reached for comment regarding the divorce, Coleman’s mother, Sue Coleman, said: “It’s too early for us to comment on this. Of course we’re concerned, but we need to find out more information.”

The Colemans, whom the actor had stopped communicating with approximately 15 years ago, say that Price’s brother has reached out to them regarding funeral plans, “but it’s still unclear what [the Prices] have in mind, but of course we’d love to be there.”

Price’s rep says the funeral plans are being made now: “We re looking at Gary’s wishes in the will and also what the family wants. Shannon s only goal is to make sure his wishes are accomplished.”